Lockheed Martin shows his new Space Habitat

In their efforts to bring astronauts back to the moon and send manned missions to Mars, NASA has signed a contract with a number of airline companies to develop all infrastructure needed. In addition to the Space Launch System (SLS) and the Orion spaceship – flying the astronauts into space and showing them safety at their destination – they have worked together with Lockheed Martin and other contractors to develop the Deep Space Gateway.

This orbit around a moon habitat will not only facilitate missions to and from the moon and Mars, it will also allow people to live and work in space like never before. On Thursday, August 16, Lockheed Martin gave a first impression of what one of the habitats onboard the Deep Space Gateway would look like. It all took place at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, where attendees were given a tour of the habitat prototype.

In its core the habitat uses the Donatello multifunctional logistics module (MPLM), a renovated module designed by the Italian space agency from the Space Shuttle era. Like all MPLMs, the Donatello is a pressurized module designed to transport equipment, experiments and supplies to and from the International Space Station onboard the Space Shuttle.

While the Donatello was never sent into space, Lockheed Martin used it again to create their prototypical habitat. With a length of 6.7 meters (22 feet) and a width of 4.57 meters (15 feet), the capsule is designed under pressure to house astronauts for a period of 30 to 60 days. According to Bill Pratt, the manager of the program, the program includes racks for science, life support systems, sleep stations, exercise machines and robot workstations.

The team also relied on mixed-reality prototyping to create the prototype habitat, a process using virtual and augmented reality to solve technical problems in the early design phase. As Pratt explained in an interview with the Orlando Sentinel, their design makes optimal use of limited space and also tries to reuse already built components:

"You see it as an RV in the deep space When you stay in an RV, your table becomes your bed and things always move, so you really have to deal with space efficiently – that's a lot of what we're testing here. We want to get to the moon and to Mars as quickly as possible, and we feel that we have many things that we can use to do that. "

This habitat is one of the many components that will eventually work on creating the Deep Space Gateway. These include the habitat, an airlock, a propulsion module, a berth and a power bus, which together weigh 68 tons (75 American tons). This makes it considerably smaller than the International Space Station (ISS), which weighs a heavy 408 metric ton (450 US tons).

Artist's impression of the Deep Space Gateway, currently under development at Lockheed Martin. Credit: NASA

Artist's impression of the Deep Space Gateway, currently under development at Lockheed Martin. Credit: NASA

In addition, the DSG is one of the many components that will be used to bring astronauts back to the moon and to Mars. As noted, these include the Space Launch System (SLS), the most powerful launch vehicle since the Saturn V (the rocket that the Apollo astronauts carried to the moon) and the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV), which will house the crew.

However, for their planned missions to Mars, NASA also wants it Deep Space Transport and the Mars Base Camp and Lander. The first requires a re-usable vehicle that is dependent on a combination of Solar Electric Propulsion (SEP) and chemical propulsion to transport crews to and from the Gateway, while the last Mars would transform and provide the means to to land the surface and return from the surface. .

All in all, NASA has awarded a combined $ 65 million to six contractors – Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Sierra Nevada Corp. Space Systems, Orbital ATK, NanoRacks and Bigelow Aerospace – to meet the habitat requirements by the end of the year. build prototype. The agency will then evaluate the proposals to determine which systems and interfaces are included in the design of the Deep Space Gateway.

In the meantime, the development of the Orion spacecraft continues in the Kennedy Space Center, where recently the heat shields were stuck. Next month, the European Space Agency (ESA) will also deliver the European service module to the Kennedy Space Center, which will be integrated with the Orion crew module and will provide the electricity, propulsion, thermal control, air and water that it needs to support a crew in space.

Artist & # 39; s impression of the Mars Base Camp in orbit around Mars. When missions begin to Mars, one of the biggest risks will be that of space radiation. Credit: Lockheed Martin

Once this is complete, NASA will start integrating the spacecraft with the SLS. NASA hopes to carry out the first non-screwed mission with the spacecraft Orion in 2020, in what is known as Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1). Exploration Mission-2 (EM-2), in which a crew performs a lunar flyby test and returns to earth, is expected to take place in mid-2022.

Development on the Deep Space Transport and the Mars Base Camp and Lander is also expected to continue. While the Gateway is part of the first phase of NASA's "Journey to Mars" plan – the "Earth Reliant" phase, where exploration takes place near the moon using current technologies – these components will be part of phase II, which deals with the development of expensive possibilities beyond the moon.

If everything goes according to plan and depends on the future budgetary environment, NASA still hopes to drive a manned mission to Mars by 2030.

Further reading: Orlando Sentinel

Matt Williams is the guide to space of the curator of the universe. He is also a freelance writer, a science fiction author and a Taekwon-Do instructor. He lives with his family on Vancouver Island in beautiful British Columbia.

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